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Sink the Pirates, Part II

By Shamus
on Wednesday Jul 23, 2008
Filed under:


I’ve been following the comment threads on the previous post on this subject and I feel compelled to retreat a bit and shore up my position further back. I joined Sean Sands in saying that inviting pirates to the debate was a bad thing, but the comment thread on the post on this site makes a really good case to the contrary. You can’t look at the comments and dismiss them all as a bunch of grabby selfish amoral jerks.

But I still get annoyed with stories that try to give the pirate’s point of view. And here’s why: It’s not that we shouldn’t listen to pirates, it’s that if you ARE going to put pirates / piracy advocates / IP reformists in your news article, you should do the responsible thing and find the SMART ones.

Some slack-jawed pilfering loser who downloads games because he can’t be arsed to pay for them doesn’t have much to say except for a bunch of weak excuses. “I pirate games because they suck and the publishers don’t deserve my money and besides these games are so awesome I can’t possibly be expected to live without them.” Right. They don’t even warrant a rebuttal because they’ve already done that for you.

But mixed in with the genuine freeloaders are people who buy games and crack them to bypass the needless DRM. Are these people pirates? I don’t think so, but they’re constantly getting lumped in with them. Some people have different ideas on how IP should work. I disagree with those people, but their opinion is more nuanced than “gimmie” and I think the comments thread proves they have things to say that are worth hearing. There are also people just trying to protect themselves against buying a non-returnable game that doesn’t work.

There are a lot of reasons people hit the torrents, and I think talking to the “gimmie” pirates is giving a voice to the most shallow and least interesting actors on that side of the divide. I agree with Sands that those people don’t have anything illuminating to say and propping up these strawmen cheapens the whole debate. Talking to them also short-changes the more interesting people – the ones who do (sometimes) buy games and who are concerned with more than just getting things without paying for them.

Comments (115)

1 2

  1. StingRay says:

    you should do the responsible thing and find the SMART ones.

    What is it about video games that draws out the morons? I’m researching a paper on games as art, and of course that brought me to Roger Ebert. In one of his columns, he talked about a professor’s student who was looking to write his thesis on the idea that games are art, and he wanted to show his professor how that was possible. The guy then chose Simpsons: Hit and Run as his shining example of the video game industry. The professor was not impressed, and I was left slack-jawed.

    There must be something to the idea that games rewire your brain, but only towards making stupid arguments. And the problem is that “journalists” will seek out the morons because they can make for a controversial story. Anti-piracy people point at the idiot and say, “What an idiot,” and pro-piracy people say, “Wait a minute!” People start talking and your readership goes up. I think it’s because of that that you’re not going to see a change in the way piracy is reported.

    It’s really too bad, because if companies pulled their heads out of the sand and investigated the real reasons for a lot of people’s piracy, they might learn a thing or two. I’m a weak-willed individual, so I’ll probably end up buying Spore, but I’m thinking about downloading Mass Effect and Bioshock simply to drive up the numbers, and then trashing the file. I’ll play those games on my 360, where I don’t have to deal with the associated issues.

    As an aside, I did buy a copy of the Creature Creator, because I’m weak. However, I justified it because it would install on my Mac. Then I read that there was Securom on the Mac version, too. So, I downloaded a cracked copy of the game, and have had no issues with it whatsoever. I’ve uploaded and downloaded creatures and had full access to the game. That may not be an option when Spore comes out, but I figure I might give it a shot.

  2. The Lone Duck says:

    My thought is this: if you wanna go boating, but can’t afford to buy or rent a boat, you’re out of luck. Stealing a boat is not an answer. If you bought a boat, but you don’t like state regulations on you boat (i.e. engine size, etc.) you’re out of luck. That’s the way I see it with IP. If you wanna start a grassroots campaign to politically change the way IP is handled, that’s one thing. But if you can’t afford videogames, take up a new hobby. Or play free online flash games. Pretending to have a justification is foolish. We don’t need Mass Effect or Bioshock so much that we’re willing to support piracy to play them the way we like.

  3. Nathon says:

    I keep seeing that group of people who crack games they’ve purchased lumped in with pirates too. I don’t see how they’re pirating anything. They’re playing the game (or listening to the music or watching the movie) they purchased. It may be illegal, but I see nothing immoral about it. I don’t know if these folks should be lumped in with Rosa Parks, but bad laws deserve to be broken. I guess the pinnacle of moral high ground is to not play the game but it’s not a very big step down to buy it, crack it, and play it (in that order).

  4. ima420r says:

    The people who download games just for the sake of having the game for free, they don’t really count. They are pirates, but they are the people who wouldn’t have bought the game in the first place. A company doesn’t loose any money or any sales because these people wouldn’t buy the product even if it wasn’t available to download.

    The peple who count are the ones who would normally buy a game, but because they can just download it, they save their money and get it for free instead. They represent a real loss for a company. That’s why there needs to be a reason for buying the game, like online play or downloadable content. Even adding an option to play without the CD/DVD is a good idea. It makes people more willing to buy a game and less likely to download it (or a crack for it).

  5. Moridin says:

    With boats there’s no need to worry that it stops working if you renovate the dock or get a new one.

  6. Nathon says:

    Boats are regulated by the government because they can have a negative impact on their environment. If you were in the market for a boat and the seller told you that servicing the boat anywhere but at the original store was verboten, you’d look elsewhere. I know. “It’s not a perfect metaphor.”

  7. Deoxy says:

    The Lone Duck,

    There are several problems with your position. The most obvious is that you assume the legality of “click-thru” agreements, which are clearly not moral (changes to agreements AFTER money has already changed hands), and whose legality is questionable at best (they don’t have a good track record in court – and most companies go to some length to keep them from getting to court, which suggests what they think the odds are of such agreements standing up in court).

    Another is your concept of law. While this is not nearly as important, Jim Crow laws are a good illustration of immoral laws that are nonetheless on the books. This is such a case.

    The peple who count are the ones who would normally buy a game, but because they can just download it, they save their money and get it for free instead. They represent a real loss for a company.

    And, to see if priacy is really loss or not, you also need to include those people who would NOT have bought the game without being able to “try before they buy” or without the extra buzz or exposure from more people playing, or whatever. I know those people exist because there are several people here giving examples of the former, and I personally am an example of the latter (more than once).

    These sales offset lost sales – it’s possible that piracy is a net gain in some cases (though that seems pretty unlikely at the moment). There are certainly music groups and book authors who have decided the “give it away and see who buys it anyway” model was worth a try (and at least some for whom it seems to have worked out BIG TIME).

  8. DaveMc says:

    I can’t wade in to this again, I’m exhausted. :) I’ll be watching with interest, though.

  9. Marc says:

    if you wanna go boating, but can't afford to buy or rent a boat, you're out of luck. Stealing a boat is not an answer.

    Not to defend piracy, but that’s a weak analogy, if only because you can’t steal a boat and leave the original untouched, in the hands of its owner. If you could take a photo of someone’s yacht and then sail away in that, then we’d be talking.

  10. qrter says:

    The peple who count are the ones who would normally buy a game, but because they can just download it, they save their money and get it for free instead. They represent a real loss for a company.

    Except that they don’t, that number of people is imponderable – it can’t be measured. I’m not saying those people don’t exist, I’m just saying there could be any number of them. The number could be devastatingly huge. It could also be surprisingly insignificant.

  11. Illiterate says:

    Marc — Taking a boat isn’t piracy?

    I must be missing something…

    For better or worse, equating copyright infringement with theft is the best way IP owners have found to gain agreement that it’s a bad thing.

  12. Crusader Corim says:

    To clarify before I start commenting: I am not a pirate, never have been a pirate, still have my original copies of X-com, Civ II, etc. I take the time to find ways to make them work on my current systems because they rock. I do play new games, although all of my new game purchases in the past year have been online (RSPoD, Sins)

    Now: IP is one of the foundations of our system of government. It’s even in the Constitution, and it’s there for a reason. When they dealt with it, copying was paper copies, and now it is digital, but the essence is the same. You’re not paying for the last game, but for the next one. If you don’t like their game, don’t buy it. If you don’t like that they don’t release a demo, don’t buy it. If you’re not sure it’ll work on your system, don’t buy it. (I have decided against purchasing games for all these reasons).

    The fact is that we (PC gamers in general) are losing our voice in the industry because of things like this. Developers are going to the consoles because of 3 things. First, it’s very, very hard to pirate games for consoles, since it can cause your entire console to go down, and can prevent future updates. Secondly, consoles have a set hardware profile, which means no fooling around with bling-shading and blop-mapping settings. Thirdly, consoles have a built-in audience, whereas not every computer is a gaming rig.

    Unless we can convince, by actions and not words, developers that these are not hindrances, we can expect more travesties like Unreal Tournament.

    I’ve managed to monopolize plenty of space on Shamus’ blog, but I look forward to your responses, especially the anti-IP crowd.

  13. StingRay says:


    The number could be devastatingly huge. It could also be surprisingly insignificant.

    It’s too bad there’s not a good way to figure that out. You can’t look at Sins of Solar Empire’s piracy rate versus Bioshock’s because maybe Sins simply isn’t as popular. And if EA suddenly takes out the DRM from Spore, that’s still doesn’t really give you any numbers, because you have no idea how many people might have pirated the DRMed version. I’m suddenly very depressed about the future of the industry.

  14. Drew says:

    The people who download games just for the sake of having the game for free, they don't really count. They are pirates, but they are the people who wouldn't have bought the game in the first place. A company doesn't loose any money or any sales because these people wouldn't buy the product even if it wasn't available to download.

    This isn’t precisely true at all. If people who “wouldn’t buy the game anyway” were put in a position where they couldn’t pirate any games, it’s quite likely that some of them would feel the desire to play a game, and would find themselves going to buy one. That’s not to say they’d necessarily buy THIS game, but the fact that they can download any games makes them less likely to feel the desire to go buy one. If it’s safe to believe that “video gamers” would like to fill some number of hours in a given week playing video games, then filling any of those hours with a pirated game directly reduces the number of hours they spend filling them with purchased games. And if there were no pirated games available, they’d either select a different pastime, or they’d go buy some games. I bet in many cases, people who “wouldn’t buy a game anyway” fall into the group who’d end up buying some games after all if they lost the ability to go grab them for free.

  15. Derek K says:

    “With boats there's no need to worry that it stops working if you renovate the dock or get a new one.”

    If you’re concerned about that, then perhaps boating is not the hobby for you. Or alternatively, you need to drive change to get boat makers to change their docking mechanisms….

    There are problems with the game industry. Stealing the games is not the way to answer it. If we really want change, we have to make a public outcry, and we have to not buy things that we want, because it’s the principle of the thing. And that’s hard. I sure as hell don’t care enough about video games to actually mount a campaign. And I know that, much as Securom type things piss me off, they don’t piss me off more than I want to play the game. Thus, I allow the companies to continue doing it, and simply rage away on a blog.

    It’s my own damn fault things aren’t changing, and I know that. But I don’t try to use that as a justification for why theft is okay….

    I’ve been trying to have meaningful discussions, and we’ve had some in the other thread, but again this seems to be heading towards the “Publishers are evil/I can’t afford it/The game has problems that I shouldn’t have to pay for” discussion justifying theft. To me, it’s fairly clear cut: If the game has problems, but you still wish to play it, you should pay for it. If it has problems that are too much for you to want to play, you should get a different game.

    I know people are broke. Until very recently, my video game budget was the $40 a month I spent on MMO fees, and Gamefly. There were a metric ton of games I wanted desperately to play, but couldn’t, because I couldn’t afford them. And such is the way of living in a corporate driven society. I didn’t get NWN2 until three months ago. I didn’t get the Orange box until 2 months ago, and then I only got TF2. My friends mocked me when I finally got Oblivion, saying “Uh, yeah, I played that last year, ya know?” Etc.

    Also, I wonder how many pirates are also the same people complaining that there are no good games, because everything that comes out is just a formulaic sequel? Because formulaic sequels still sell. And companies make the games that sell. Because no one bought an experimental sci-fi shooter rpg RTS art game, no more get made. Even if the first one sucked, 95% of the people that played it didn’t buy it, so they said “Eh, we could do better, but there’s no market for it.”

    Do you really think Fallout would get made today? No. People make safe games, because stuff that pushes the limits doesn’t make money, and companies can’t afford to toss money at games that may or may not succeed. Part of the process of making games is making crap, and seeing that people bought it quick, then didn’t continue buying, so you know there’s a market for it, but you did it wrong…..

  16. ZeroByte says:

    I still don’t quite get the hard to pirate console games thing. Over here in the Philippines pirated PS3/Xbox 360 games are pretty easy to acquire, same with getting a chipped system. Perhaps game publishers just don’t get hit as hard by console piracy in first world countries as the people with actual money to spend on games are forced to buy original copies, whereas here they aren’t even expecting any significant sales so they can ignore piracy. Last I heard, Microsoft doesn’t even officially support the Xbox360 here in the Philippines. Come to think of it, does it indicate that game companies are actually aware of the argument that a pirated copy isn’t necessarily a lost sale?

    Anyway, another thought about piracy. It’s a bit of a stretch since movies doesn’t quite equate with games but I recently saw a documentary about Chinese film makers and one of the interviewees said something about how piracy helped him with his craft. That he would not have been able to see as many movies as he has if there weren’t pirated copies and that would have crippled him some.

    I wonder if the same could be said about the piracy of games. Lets take Russia for example. As of late there are a lot of games coming out of Russia. With the state of the Russian economy being what it was, I would wager that quite a few of those developers had pirated a game before. I know it’s not a justification for piracy but it could be an unintended consequence of piracy, the enrichment of the medium as a whole.

    Hey, there’s a wobbly argument if there ever was one!

  17. StingRay says:

    @Crusader Corim

    I kind of have the guy instinct that reason 2 and 3 in your list are the primary reason developers are moving away from computers. Piracy just smacks of a sympathetic ploy to me.

    For me, right or wrong, copyright is a Constitutional issue in the sense of someone else profiting off of your work. I have no disagreement that someone who puts a copy of a game up on ebay is entirely in the wrong. Someone who copies a blog post and sells it as their own is wrong. Even a bit torrent site that asks for money in order to keep running is wrong.

    I get fuzzy when it comes to piracy where no money is exchanging hands. If I make a copy of a music CD, or a game, or a movie and give that copy to a friend of mine, then I’ve technically violated copyright, but I have a hard time seeing that as wrong. Pirates who pirate solely to share the love or fight the man or free the information or whatever…. I dunno.

    Without any way to prove that X% of pirated software would have been paying customers, I just don’t see lost profits as a viable argument. I mean, as it stands, the thieves who developed Limbo of the Lost (they profited off of copyrighted material) could use the “Pirated copies are lost sales” argument to claim that Limbo of the Lost should be on top of the sales charts. I never would have paid for the game, not even after it reached notoriety, but given a chance to download it and take a peak at the train wreck, why not? That download, though, was not a lost sale. Never would have been.

    I agree that the best course of action when dealing with abominable customer relations is to simply leave. Don’t buy it, don’t pirate it, don’t talk about it. In sales, the only bad press is no press. I think, though, that that’s an unreasonable expectation. I also doubt that it will do any good. They won’t listen to their paying customers. I doubt they listen to the silence of a non-participating customer.

  18. Winter says:

    There are a lot of reasons people hit the torrents, and I think talking to the “gimmie” pirates is giving a voice to the most shallow and least interesting actors on that side of the divide.

    I certainly agree there–the only reason to pay attention to those people is for the purposes of mocking.

    At least the “information should be free” camp has an actual, sensible (if extreme) philosophy. (One which i kind of subscribe to in fact, but in the case of purely digital entertainment/art it probably doesn’t work.)

  19. Delve says:

    If the game has problems, but you still wish to play it, you should pay for it. If it has problems that are too much for you to want to play, you should get a different game.

    Except that I don’t know it’s broken until I’ve payed for it. At which point it is completely unreturnable.

    I’ve downloaded countless demos that inexplicably refuse to run on my computer. I delete them, and look for something else. This is a hindrance, but acceptable for something I haven’t paid for. Once I’ve irrevocably paid for it though I expect it to work. I don’t expect to be told ‘You need Shaders XYZ, go buy a new $300 video card,’ or ‘Your CD drive is too old and doesn’t support my new anti-customer features, go upgrade.’ I can’t tell that from the tech specs and I don’t care to carve my brain pointy enough to be able to (if that’s even possible, many of those little boxes are so vague it’s laughable). If you can’t tell me whether your product is going to work on my system then you’d bloody well better have a ‘try it out’ option first. If the only ‘try it out’ option is to pirate the bloody thing then so be it. I don’t have enough disposable income to pay for entertainment that isn’t, much less to upgrade my system every 6 months to keep up with your capricious system specs.

  20. Derek K says:

    @Delve: I’ll say it again – perhaps computer gaming is not for you. Consoles might be your best bet.

    Part of having computers is that sometimes, stuff doesn’t work, you need to tweak, or you need to upgrade. Consoles don’t have that issue – they work, or you return it.

    The disconnect I have here is the idea that somehow, if you don’t know that the game will work, you should be able to take it for free. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy a book when I buy it. Should I be able to photocopy the entire thing first, then read it, then decide? I don’t know if I’ll enjoy a meal when I order it – should I get to eat it first, then decide if I’ll pay for it?

    Nope. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

    Also, unless you’re a cutting edge first adapter, typically, there are a number of places on the interwebs wherein you can find information about how the game plays, and whether it’s likely to be an easy install or not. Granted, it takes a little time, but “I didn’t know if it would work on my machine” is hard for me to buy as translating in to “I pirated it, then tested.”

    And again, you may be one of the few that are legit, and buy it after finding out. But I’m pretty sure the majority of people who pirate with good intentions don’t follow through.


    “If you can't tell me whether your product is going to work on my system then you'd bloody well better have a “˜try it out' option first.”

    Agreed. That’s why the majority of the time, I only buy games with demos. Which, in theory, supports people releasing demos. Pirating it says “Eh, do a demo or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

  21. Nathon says:

    StingRay: The argument that an unquantifiable loss justifies an otherwise immoral action is deeply flawed. Making a copy of a CD (music) and giving it to a friend is quite obviously wrong from a moral or legal point of view. The facts that it has no immediate consequences for the copier and the copyright holder doesn’t know about it don’t diminish the immorality of the act. Along similar lines, I have no problem with anyone playing the CD at a party where people who never purchased it can hear it or with loaning it to that friend.

    The tricky part, as I see it, is in the demo world. What if I go to a friend’s house and play a game there? I decide I like the game and go out and buy it. I don’t think anyone (whose opinion is worth anything) will object to that. What if, instead, I borrow the game from the friend, install it, determine that it works, then buy it? Slightly less solid, but assuming the game has that requirement that the disc be in the drive in order to play, it’s fine with me. This is where the consumer rights vs. publisher’s rights start to matter.

    Now, if I download the game from a torrent site and install it I’ve clearly crossed the line into illegality but if I go out and purchase it once I’ve determined that it will run on my system, have I acted immorally? I’m not sure.

    Postface: I don’t do these things. The last game I played was StarCraft and I purchased it in the late ’90s.

  22. Matt K says:

    @Crusader Corim, StingRay

    Just to clarify the whole Constitutional issue, the history of IP protection is actually pretty long (going back hundreds of years before America ever existed) and since I have to make this quick, the whole point of IP law is to give incentives to people not only to make things, but to put them out there for others. The thought being that without protection people would invent and horde it thus depriving the world of the innovation.

    DRM in fact screws this up to a certain extent but as for that and my opinions (I have pirated thing on numerous occasions for a variety of reasons such a needing to see if I can play the damn thing in the first place) I’ll have to post that later.

  23. Nathon says:

    Derek K: I have to disagree. I routinely read parts of books while I’m standing in the book store. More to the point, if I’m in the market for a book, shouldn’t I at least be able to determine in what language it was written before I buy it? If I get a meal from a restaurant and it comes with bugs crawling all over it, I expect to not have to pay for it. In fact, people routinely send meat back to the kitchen because it’s not cooked to their liking and, in good restaurants, don’t pay for the replacement. The computer gaming industry is nothing like this. Saying “This is the way it is, if you don’t like it go elsewhere” does nothing to solve the problem. Of course stealing the games fixes nothing but the suck it up mentality is anti-useful.

  24. Crusader Corim says:

    I don’t disagree that two and three are the primary reasons, but one is depriving them of even the existing computer gaming audience, and causing the migration faster.

    Piracy where you don’t make money, “for the love of the genre” is just as bad. Consider if I reprinted Dresden Files books (one of the series I’m reading now). I took no money on them, I just spread them around because I really like them, and I wanted other people to experience them. That’s still wrong, because the books are not mine to do with as I please. The single copy of each book I own may be shared (and have been), but to make copies is to violate Jim Butcher’s copyright. The same is true of music, games, etc. The only difference is that it is difficult to tell because of the digital nature of the medium if it is the “same” copy that you have the right to. I have no moral argument with you borrowing a friend’s copy of Sins to try it out before you buy it from Stardock. However, for it to be ethical, you need to ensure that you’re not both playing it, whether by uninstall, or what ever. And in no way can anyone pretend that grabbing a torrent is the same as borrowing from a friend.

    As for the “irrevocably paid for it” argument, I’m afraid that I must say “don’t buy a game where you’re close to the minimum spec”. It’s the policy I follow, and I’ve never had a game fail to work. Does it suck that I couldn’t buy Bioshock, Mass Effect, Crysis, etc.? Maybe. (There were other reasons I didn’t, but system specs removed them from the list entirely). Are there places where they are not clear enough on the boxes? Complain to the manufacturer.

    If you don’t like their return policy, DON’T BUY IT. Feel free to let them know why they lost your business, but that doesn’t give you the right to still use their product.

    I note here that I am discussing 1st world piracy. Third world piracy has been discussed, but as with international copyright and patent problems, there are more layers than I can cover in such a short space.

  25. TK says:

    Just thought I would chime in. This is a conversation/argument that we often see in blogs, forums, etc. The thing is, the conversation is moot. IP piracy is not going away, ever. Ever since computers have existed people have copied data and they always will.

    Right or wrong, there are no consequences for ip infringement, at least on a small scale. True, there’s a chance you might get caught by one of the **AAs and get sued for a couple grand, but the chance is so astronomical its practically non-existent.

    Right or wrong doesn’t mean much if no one cares. If people cared, we wouldn’t need laws. That’s why people think twice when stealing in the real world. “Stealing” on the internet is carefree.

  26. Davesnot says:

    If you can’t afford a boat.. make one..

    If you have the wrong engine size for the regs.. it’s a ticket.. they won’t stop building engines because of your ticket.. the only one hurt is the pocketbook of the guy fined.

    Steal software.. it’s stealing money.. it ain’t no moral Robin Hood thing.

    This belief of being “entitled” to stuff.. it’s just idiocy propogated by lousy parents that can’t say no to their kids or at least teach them where stuff comes from…

    The human brain can rationalize anything.. think witch trials, inquisition, holocaust, W., .. but that doesn’t make it right.

  27. Daosus says:

    I don’t even bother with most computer games anymore. I play Open Source or old games because it’s not worth it to me to try to make sure everything is compatible, and that I won’t get screwed by some convoluted DRM scheme. In some ways, I feel that piracy has muddled the issue of what makes a good game.

    I think there are really three questions with regard to piracy:

    1. What is piracy?
    In this case, it is the unauthorized copying and distribution of someone else’s work. Also, robbery and plunder on the high seas.

    2. Is piracy immoral?
    Yes. Irregardless of the arguments made to support it, it discourages further development of entertainment, causing a net loss to society. If you pirate something because you don’t like their DRM (without paying them money), or because they didn’t provide a demo, you are messing up the way the market works. When something doesn’t sell, people start to look for the reason. If they find piracy, they start trying to fight piracy. If they find that people want a demo, they will provide a demo. The reason many games don’t have demos is because the market has not told them that they need them.

    3. What methods are effective for combating it?
    Shamus has posted many good ways, as has that article “Better than Free.”

  28. Crusader Corim says:

    A few quick hits:

    Firstly, the conversation is hardly moot, because the difference is between an act we know is wrong and one we believe to be right. It’s true that there are no consequences to small scale piracy, but there aren’t any to small-scale book copying either, but we don’t justify it.

    Secondly, Nathon, I don’t believe that the attitude I have is anti-useful, because what I do is take my business to people who meet those needs. I have only bought indie games and Stardock games recently, have been very satisfied, and enjoyed my gaming experiences immensely. What this means is that gaming companies who follow Stardock’s model will increase in profit, those who do not will decrease. The market will increasingly create more Stardock style distributions.

    Thirdly, the bookstore analogy is apt, since bookstores intentionally let you read pieces of books ahead of time, because it increases sales. Do I think every game should have a demo? Yes. Do I think it would increase sales? Yes. Does that mean the game companies have a requirement to provide them, or that we can pirate them if they don’t? Absolutely not, anymore than we could copy a book from a bookstore that doesn’t let us browse. They hold the copyright, they can do any stupid thing they want with it. I’m not their business manager, if I were, they’d have more demos, but it’s their right, not mine.

  29. Jeff says:

    I bet in many cases, people who “wouldn't buy a game anyway” fall into the group who'd end up buying some games after all if they lost the ability to go grab them for free.
    I’d take that bet.
    How many people still play D2, WC3, or other such games?
    In spite of a combination of new purchased games, my friends and I are still playing Soulstorm (WH40k:DoW) and DotA (WC3) more than anything else.

    The few who aren’t wouldn’t be the ones in the “wouldn’t buy a game anyway” group, by definition of the group.

    If you don't like their return policy, DON'T BUY IT.
    Except you’re essentially dealing with a monopoly here, where such consumer actions are entirely irrelevant.

    there aren't any to small-scale book copying either, but we don't justify it.
    Talk to 99% of students in post-secondary education.
    For the record, I bought all my textbooks.

    PS. Console games are pirated like heck. Get your system modded cheaply at any number of major malls within 15 minutes driving distance from my home (here in Canada).

    It’s worth noting that regardless of if piracy is right or wrong, it is often no more than a flimsy excuse used as self-justification to cover poor business practices that are contrary to the principles of capitalism.
    RIAA vs Apple in music, for example. Steam or Stardock would be the Apple equivilant for games.
    Rather than adapting to the market, the industry members who are most outspoken about anti-piracy measures are trying to shape the market. Which is futile, and frankly demonstrates ignorance of economics.

  30. Coyote says:

    I’m very anti-piracy. After all, selling games gives my children food to eat, so those rights are pretty important to me. But if breaking the DRM and installing a no-CD crack so I can play my legitimately purchased game unencumbered (as the pirates get to) is piracy – well, lump me in with ’em then.

    And that is the danger of the stupidity of these anti-piracy measures. They make legitimate users into pirates, paints them with the same brush, and makes people like me think, “Well, shoot, if you are gonna make me out to be a pirate anyway, and make me hit these pirate sites just to be able to play the game I paid good money for, I guess I might as well… you know… look around a little bit and try out what I’m getting blamed for.”

  31. Danath says:

    Some people obviously dont understand what piracy is and just lump it up as “Immoral”.

    @ Daosus
    No, piracy is not always immoral, you have just lumped everyone into one group, some people like myself use piracy to test if a game is WORTH buying, when the game does not have an available demo, I myself do not pirate a game unless it is 4+ years old and has no demo that I could try.

    Is it piracy? Yes, is it immoral? Not necessarily.

    @Derek K

    Im sorry? I should spend 1000-2000 dollars on a computer and not have the expectation that a game should run decently without me having to tweak it? Especially considering they do not give me instructions on HOW to tweak it?

    Again your analogies are flawed, books? I ALWAYS read books, at least the first chapter or two before I purchase them, I check the back blurbs, etc, I will not ever blindly purchase a book. And funny enough, people who buy food from a place and dont like it *will not return*, if you did this with video game companies, all youd ever be able to do was play flash games.

    Being able to test a game is nearly essential, if you bought Fable for the PC youd definatly understand what its like to be ripped off for 50 bucks and get a broken unplayable pile of garbage. These kind of ripoffs justify piracy, if you dont want piracy to be justified, stop releasing garbage.

    Expecting a game to work is not a sign that you shouldnt be on computers, if there were available tweaks in the manual or from their site that told you just how you could fix the game, great! (I had to disable bloom in Bioshock cause it glitched up my graphics card, I didnt know this till I started just randomly hitting options). Just because you use a computer you should not expect to have to fix your OWN games… a trend exemplified by Oblivion, a terribly broken terribly boring game unless you crammed it with about 30 user made patches.

  32. Daosus says:

    You missed my point, I think. I have a roundabout way about me, and I will try to be more clear. When you pirate a game because there is no demo, you are sending the message that you don’t care about a demo. Not having a demo did not deter you from buying the game, so why should the manufacturer spend money to make one? If the publisher doesn’t support their game (tech support or patch support, or both), don’t buy it.

    The difference between our views is in the scope. I try to take a very long view of things. Being able to buy any one game doesn’t matter as much as the quality and availability of games in general.

    If I bought Fable for the PC and found it unusable, I would attempt a return. If not, that publisher is simply not going to get any money from me until I hear they have cleaned up their act.

    Understand this: if you pirate to test a game and buy it later, you are rewarding the publishers who happened to make a game compatible with your system. If you do not buy from publishers whose games don’t play on your system, you are rewarding every publisher who works to make their games compatible.

  33. Rick C says:


    “Part of having computers is that sometimes, stuff doesn't work, you need to tweak, or you need to upgrade. Consoles don't have that issue – they work, or you return it.”

    And if you could return a game that didn’t work on your computer, that’d be a perfectly acceptable position.

    Edit: That’s not an endorsement of piracy.

  34. The Lone Duck says:

    @ Deoxy, and anyone else who cares :)
    I admit that at times, bad laws must be broken, to bring about positive change. However, in most cases regarding piracy, people are not breaking them to make a point, but because it’s convinient. I admit a lot of the IP issues are currently undecided and unimplemented, I think there’s no reason why people couldn’t protest it in dozens of legal ways. As for Jim Crow laws, that gap is absurd. Comparing DRM hassles to lynchings and discrimination is frankly absurd. Bad laws should not be broken, but fixed. Judging by how many people speed, most people probably think the speed limits are too low. However, rather than protest it legitimately, they simply speed. They don’t care about having valid laws, they just want to satisfy their own interests. That’s how I see piracy/supporting piracy. If you really want to take a stand against the DRM/IP issues, do so in a legitimate fashion. Otherwise, I see you as a selfish individual who doesn’t care about having sound, valid laws and rulings. I would rather quit videogames, than steal videogames.
    Questions of morality don’t deal with consequences. I believe these forms of piracy to be immoral. Can you get away with it? Almost certainly.
    Heh. What did you do to earn a demo? A DRM-free software? You haven’t earned it. You aren’t entitled to it. The seller has certain rights to set the terms of sale. If you have a legitimate claim, back that up with legitimate protest. If you believe your cause is right, then use righteous means to gain support for it. Don’t use means that are spoken of badly. (The fact that piracy is so badly spoken of, should tell you it’s not an effective means of protest.) But let’s face it. MOst people just want to play free games, and do so because there is no consequence at the moment.

  35. Derek K says:

    “No, piracy is not always immoral, you have just lumped everyone into one group, some people like myself use piracy to test if a game is WORTH buying, when the game does not have an available demo, I myself do not pirate a game unless it is 4+ years old and has no demo that I could try.

    Is it piracy? Yes, is it immoral? Not necessarily.”

    Yes. Do you think the person that made the game 4 years ago no longer needs an income? 4 years old or yesterday, it is a product they made which you have taken without paying. It’s justifications like that that allow people to steal, and yet feel okay about it.

    @the bookstore analogy:

    Reading a book in the store is entirely different than photocopying the book and taking it home. If you wish to sit in the store and read the entirety of the book, then place it back on the shelf, I suppose you could. I would expect the store employees to hassle you after a time with something like “Would you like to purchase that book? If not, we’d ask you to return it, and leave the store.” Reading a part of the book in the store is far different than downloading a full copy that you did not pay for. Yes, I know, everyone promises that they will buy it if they like it. I suspect that falls under the same category as good intentions.

    “Im sorry? I should spend 1000-2000 dollars on a computer and not have the expectation that a game should run decently without me having to tweak it? Especially considering they do not give me instructions on HOW to tweak it?”

    I’m sorry – how does what you spent on a computer someone else made have any bearing on the game I produced? You having a computer is a pre-requisite for buying the game I made, not some sort of argument you make about the game itself…. And how does the amount of money you spent on a computer in any way indicate the quality of the machine, and the correlation of your machine to the required stats?

    Should we accept people making games that don’t run on a normal computer system? Nope. If it doesn’t work well, we complain on the forums, we call and let them know, we stop buying their games. Should a game author be able to anticipate every config out there? Nope. It’s a balance. Those that do it well (Blizzard) should be rewarded. Those that don’t should be punished, by complaints, reviews, and lack of revenue. They should release demos, they should be held accountable. Pirating the game does none of that. That’s the key feature – I agree with all that you have said, except the idea that because of the above, piracy is now okay. If I believed that everyone set aside the money for a game, downloaded a pirated copy, installed it and said “Huh, it works” and immediately walked to the store and bought it, I’d be less cut and dried. But even if a few people here do that, most people just use that as a justification to get the game for free.

    Also, I’m fairly sure they have instructions on how to tweak it if you browse the forums and the tech support forums.

    @Rick C:
    “And if you could return a game that didn't work on your computer, that'd be a perfectly acceptable position.”

    You know why you can’t return a computer game that didn’t work once it’s been opened?

    At least in part, it’s because so many people used that to pirate games, the stores had to stop offering it as an option.

    Also, has anyone attempted to contact the manufacturer of the game when it didn’t work, and ask for a refund? I actually have, and was able to return it for a refund. It was a hassle, but I did, in fact, get my money back.

    @The Lone Duck/Daosus: Hear hear!

  36. Jeff says:

    If I bought Fable for the PC and found it unusable, I would attempt a return. If not, that publisher is simply not going to get any money from me until I hear they have cleaned up their act.
    While you may find yourself comfortable on your horse with your moral position, this in no way affects publishers, nor will they notice what you (actively) did not do.

    if you pirate to test a game and buy it later, you are rewarding the publishers who happened to make a game compatible with your system. If you do not buy from publishers whose games don't play on your system, you are rewarding every publisher who works to make their games compatible.
    This is, once again, patting yourself on the back, with no economic impact, nor will the publishers notice or care.

    As difficult as it may seem with our self-empowerment society, not buying something has zero effect. You/we’re just not that important, individually.

    The bookstore analogy fails, of course. You’re allowed to look at the book first to see it’s in a languge you can read. You’re allowed to return it. You’re allowed to pass it amongst your friends once you’re done (and thus have gained almost 100% use for you). You’re allowed to donate it to a public library for thousands of strangers to read.
    In terms of software, you can’t try it first. You can’t return it. You can’t (or rather, aren’t supposed to) pass it around. And of course you certainly can’t share it with thousands of strangers.
    If anything, using books as an example support the piracy side of the debate, as it brings up things like public libraries and the printing press, and debate against those when they were new.

    Should we accept people making games that don't run on a normal computer system? Nope. If it doesn't work well, we complain on the forums, we call and let them know, we stop buying their games. Should a game author be able to anticipate every config out there? Nope. It's a balance. Those that do it well (Blizzard) should be rewarded. Those that don't should be punished, by complaints, reviews, and lack of revenue. They should release demos, they should be held accountable. Pirating the game does none of that.
    This is in fact outright wrong.
    I can’t recall the specific software, but there was a widespread complaint of a “bug” in a game (this was cited on this very website some time ago) that ’caused the game to fail (as a product, I mean). Except the “bug” was actually a copy-protect feature. So to say that pirates don’t give feedback is to ignore reality.
    They can’t get feedback from owners only unless they only listen to owners, at which point they already have your money.

    Note that I’m not saying piracy is right. It’s wrong like speeding, but I’ve done both. I’m just poking holes. A lot of what I quoted up there is basically from the perspective of “I’m important, they’ll listen to me” when in truth, you’re not, and they won’t. Once again, economics don’t work that way.
    Even if software piracy was as morally wrong as murder, it’s a part of the market.

    So going back to the original topic… it’s pointless. And essentially, from an economist’s view, stupid. It’s a non-issue, it’s just a part of the market. Again, Steam and Stardock have found ways to handle it. Some haven’t.

    There’s only a few sides to this argument.
    Those who are dealing with theory, involving IP-activists on both sides and those who like to have a warm fuzzy feeling thinking they’re right and better than those filthy corsairs.
    Then the practical, involving the greedy producers who are unwilling to move with the times, and the greedy freeloaders who just want free stuff.
    The companies who adapt and thrive tend not to get loud atop soapboxes.
    The RIAA complains, people make speeches… and Apple quietly rakes in massive profits.

  37. Blake says:


    Making a copy of a CD (music) and giving it to a friend is quite obviously wrong from a moral or legal point of view.

    And yet, here in Canada, lending a CD to a friend, giving her a blank CD-R, letting her use your computer, and helping her burn the CD-R which she can keep for her own personal use is completely legal. Go figure, eh?

    See also: http://neil.eton.ca/copylevy.shtml#copy_for_friends

    @Derek K:

    Yes. Do you think the person that made the game 4 years ago no longer needs an income?

    Wait a sec, do you mean that I can stop working now, and be guaranteed an income from work I did 4 years ago?!? Sweet! Where do I get my cheque?

  38. Shamus says:

    I’ve been hanging back and enjoying the threads (both of them now, sorry for re-igniting the thing) but just so I don’t seem aloof I’ll toss my own two cents in:

    Stripping away the analogies, the laws, the stuff on IP, and getting down to my own sense of right and wrong, I believe you have the right to set whatever terms you like for selling goods you’ve produced. If I make something of value I can charge what I like for it and set whatever stupid restrictions on the buyer I see fit. Their choice is to deal with me or go without the thing I made.

    It doesn’t matter if I’m a poor artisan trying to feed his kids or some corporate jerk. It doesn’t matter if what I made is a masterwork or sophomoric crap. I made it, and if you want it you should negotiate with me for it in good faith. If you want the thing but I’m being unreasonable, trying to get the thing without meeting my requirements is still wrong.

    That’s how I come at this. I pay for games not out of respect for the demented IP laws we have, but out of respect for the producer. This is why I didn’t buy BioShock or Mass Effect on the PC. They set terms I couldn’t live with and so I walked away from the deal.

  39. T-Boy says:

    ::reads previous comment thread::

    The exact same argument was made about denying public libraries back in the day. Reading was a luxury and not essential to the common man. Assuming that you disagree with that obsolete notion and believe that reading is essential in today's world…

    Public libraries carry fiction and other non printed media (such as movies and music) that ONLY exists for entertainment value. Why is it acceptable for libraries to loan out copyrighted material for pure entertainment value? Why is it NOT acceptable for video games? Both are for entertainment.

    Did someone just compare video games to library books?

    You know what? Yeah, fundamentally similar media, with fundamentally similar issues.

    But the reason why books are considered essential and video games are not is because you already get a lot out of books without having to rely on anything else apart from knowledge. Once you give a person a book, that’s all they need to start learning or experiencing what’s in that book. And if they don’t have the knowledge to start reading? You can actually give them a book, or a series of books, that could, with some effort, teach them to read or fill in missing gaps.

    Give a man a DVD or a torrent file, and the man still needs a computer. And even then, it needs to be the right computer, he needs to have a reliable power supply, maybe he needs to get online, and he’ll need to learn how to use the computer itself…

    I mean, there was plenty of pointless arguing in the comment threads, and there were lots of awkward metaphors, but this one just stood out.

  40. The problem with granting concessions to the people who pirate because they don’t want to be faced with major annoyance is that you’re granting recognition to the *principle* that the creator of a product or value does not have the right to determine how/when/where/to whom they wish to sell that product. Principles have to be upheld as absolutes. If you concede that the *right* is with a thief then what recourse do you have when he demands a little more, then a little more, and a little more?

    If you want to open a discussion about the *right* way for producers to protect their intellectual property, start your own company that does it the way you think it should be done and run the bastards out of business. Nothing speaks louder than success–and you’ll have the added assurance that you’ve violated no one’s rights.

  41. yoshi927 says:

    Actually, I have something to contribute for once.

    I own Starcraft and the expansion. Yesterday I couldn’t get on to multiplayer because there was some error or something, so I had to reinstall it from scratch. After I did that, it refused to update Bnet, even after a second reinstall. (meaning I still can’t play multiplayer) I’m not really a technical wizard, so this is the point where I decided to screw it and just pirate the thing and play on icCup.

    What I’m saying is, imagine Oblivion, the game you were complaining about, something to the effect that it needs too many patches. What if the game rejected patches somehow? If you own software that doesn’t do it’s job correctly and doesn’t allow you to fix it, I’d say it’s okay to pirate it so that you can at least get a working product. They already have your money anyway.

  42. Derek K says:

    “If anything, using books as an example support the piracy side of the debate, as it brings up things like public libraries and the printing press, and debate against those when they were new.”

    I don’t see that at all.

    Keep in mind we’re not talking about creating a lending library of games for people who can’t afford them. We’re not talking about whether CD-Rs are a bad thing. We’re talking about taking a copy of a work that was produced with the intent to sell it, and not paying for it. The idea that I can’t give away or sell a game is a different one, and one I feel is pretty dumb. The idea that I can’t give away *copies* of the game I am specifically not authorized to give away/sell is another thing.

    I can buy a book. I can loan it to my friend. He can eat it. All fine. If I buy a book, then copy it out longhand, and give it to my friend, that’s not okay. Because I have created another copy, without permission.

    I’m pretty sure, again, that I can’t use my printing press (or, say, my scanner, and a printer) to make 500 copies of the newest Harry Potter book, and then sell them or give them away. That’s what piracy is. It’s not a library, it’s not a printing press.

    To those who say this argument is irrelevant, and it’s just part of the market, I say humbug. I’ll go all high horse, and say that “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” – the argument that “it’s just the way it is” is used on many many things, and it’s never a good one. It’s basically saying “It’s too hard to change, just ignore it.” Sure, I won’t go crusading to fix it. But someone could, and with the right exposure, it could change. I just don’t care enough to do it, because it’s not that near and dear to my heart. I won’t pretend to compare video games to racism or censorship anything of the sort in terms of significance, but in principle, it’s the same type of thing – “Eh, stuff like that is just the way it is.” And you saying it’s not is a Slap in the Face.

    And Yoshi: Did you attempt to contact Blizzard support about it?

    Because that’s the problem with piracy – it’s in that nebulous realm where “It’s a lot of work” translates to “Eh, I’ll just pirate it.” I’ve done it too – I couldn’t find a CD-Key for my daughter’s Sims 2: Something or other of 200 expansions. So I went online, found one, and installed it. I’d bought the game, just not kept the 300 manuals. And I’m just as complicit in promoting piracy. Because it was easier (and honestly my only option). I tried to find the key on the EAGames site, but I hadn’t registered it, and I couldn’t even reverse engineer it from the PC it was installed on already. So I gave up.

  43. Mythin says:


    If I make something of value I can charge what I like for it and set whatever stupid restrictions on the buyer I see fit. Their choice is to deal with me or go without the thing I made.

    While this is great in theory, it falls apart in practice. Clickwrap agreements coupled with the inability to easily return a product make it so a consumer can’t enter into a reasonable agreement with a producer. I can’t know ahead of time what type of agreement I’m going to enter into, I have to be a lawyer to decipher about half the clickwrap agreements out there and I’m not allowed to return it through normal channels if I disagree. This doesn’t seem to be a good faith agreement on the part of the producer.

    If someone is unwilling to deal with their customers in good faith, why should their customers deal with them is such a way? Sure, if I’m willing to do the research I can find out what limitations are on software before I buy it. I can determine that person A has the same video card as me and has had problems X, Y and Z. None of this helps when I’m sitting at Target and looking at Mass Effect on the shelf thinking it would be great, just to get home and find out I need to install a bunch of software I’m morally opposed to. Target won’t take it back, so I’m now out ~$50 for something I no want.

    You keep trying to make this into a black and white issue of right and wrong, when it isn’t so clear cut. While you may be up on the latest of what will work on your set up, what has Starforce or SecuROM, what the clickwrap agreements are and other such issues, should these be required to be a customer in the PC game world? The answer increasingly seems to be “Yes” which is most likely at least part of the reason for such a drop in PC game sales.

  44. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh by the way: I used to be a pirate. I haven’t been for a while now (my example of No-CD patches for games I’ve bought doesn’t really count), but I can give you the excuses I made at the time:

    1) I can’t buy a copy of [insert item here] any more because it’s not being published any more. This was my biggest excuse for playing NES, SNES, Genesis, etc. ROMs on my PC. Nowadays, most of the ROMs I have are actually retroactively legitimate copies thanks to the availability of classic games collections.

    I played through Chrono Trigger twice on an emulated SNES ROM, then got the Playstation version (it’s way too complicated to explain here, but I couldn’t get a legit copy of the SNES game at the time) as soon as I could and then played that version to death. I’m also probably buying the DS version when it comes out.

    Chrono Trigger is an example of Square eventually making more money off of me in the long run thanks to an initial illegally obtained copy. Pokemon was a similar deal: we didn’t start out with legitimate copies of Red and Blue, but between all the copies I and my brothers have bought of all the versions, Nintendo has made back more than 10 times what we didn’t spend on the original cartridges.

    2) I can’t buy a copy of [insert item here] because a legitimate copy of it in a language I can read does not exist.

    This was the case for a lot of SNES ROMs. I now have two legitimate copies of FF5 for PS and GBA, but originally I had to rely on piracy back in 2000-ish. Now there is only one illegitimately-translated ROM I have that doesn’t have a legitimate analog: Seiken Densetsu 3. Of course, considering how many of-Mana (as it’s known in the English speaking world) games I’ve bought since I first played through SD3, that’s almost been compensated for as well.

    3) I can’t buy a copy of this because the publishers aren’t giving me a means to buy the game. This was my excuse for using RPG Maker 2000, which I used to be obsessed about. The amazing Don Miguel, a Russian who knew just enough English, Japanese, and computer-savvy to produce a… unique translation of RM2k (technically not Engrish, I guess it could be called EngRussianese?) gained infamy for a few years by founding a unique creative community that I still miss in it’s original form.

    Two better, legit versions are available to download for free trial and/or unlimited-activation-for-a-fee. I was very happy when RPG Maker XP came out. Despite Don Miguel’s initial theoretical harm to the publishers of the RPG Maker games, the communities he inspired have been reincarnated in legitimate form and are a fantastic source of support. This has led to more income for the developers than they otherwise would have gotten, because they’re a small Japanese-only company that can’t afford to support official English communities.

    Now all these wonderful stories and examples of how sometimes Piracy actually works out for the best in the long run make it sound like I’m an advocate. But there’s some big reasons I stopped:

    1) There’s so much available now legitimately for free or cheap that there’s just no need to pirate anything. The RM2k situation eventually led to Enterbrain making the smart choice and giving those who wanted to pay for their initially-illegitimately-obtained RPG Maker software a way to buy legit copies has a darker side to it.

    The fact is that Enterbrain weren’t entirely wrong in pointing out in their open (English) letter that those who pirated RM2k were harming the chances of future development. Those who pirated RM2k but still wanted to buy it were a tiny minority and it wasn’t until Don Miguel voluntarily closed his site for good and most of the pirate sites perpetuating the problem vanished that Enterbrain were able to make RMXP available for legitimate purchase. There’s pirate versions of RMXP and RMVX out there, but it’s no longer considered acceptable to use the pirate versions on most English RM* boards.

    2) I don’t want to support the pirates anymore. I know I can rely on me to do the right thing, but to download pirate versions of anything now is to associate myself with idiots who really don’t care about the right thing, don’t have a proper understanding of what they’re doing in the first place, or are actively trying to “bring down the system so that everything can be free”. (*shudder*)

    A lot of pirate sites are on the same level as those who deliberately try to infect peoples’ computers with various flavors of malware (viruses, spyware, adware, spambots, etc.). Because that’s exactly what happens when you go to a lot of those sites.

    3) I was always “ethical”. But I’m a freak who’s always been too savvy to not care about what I’m doing with regards to others. I always thought “I’m going to find a way to get a legit copy of this if it’s good” every time. A lot of times it worked out to the benefit of the developers and publishers sooner or later.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that I was freeloading off of people who have families to feed, taxes to pay, and various other expenses. When I started having to pay my own expenses I finally woke up to this harsh reality. It was like sneaking into a movie theater and then sneaking out to buy a ticket. Yes, I bought the ticket almost every time, but I was still sneaking around just like the idiots who refuse to spend the mental effort to care about buying the ticket post-facto.

    I can’t speak to everyone here, but let me just say that if you’re an “ethical pirate” (==”functional gambler/alchoholic/lecher/smoker”) like I used to be, please trust me: it may seem like the benefits to you and others outweigh the drawbacks, but in the long run, you might as well be justifying a gambling/alcohol/porn/smoking habit. Vices always get you eventually, if you don’t wise up in time.

    Things I personally consider acceptable:

    1) Using whatever hacks or cracks you want on your legit software. This gets a bit iffy with online games like WoW, and I definitely don’t recommend goldfarming or other nonsense, but there’s nothing wrong with using a Diablo 2 character editor for your offline games or installing a no-CD patch for your own personal use.

    2) Trying out a pirate copy for the sole purpose of seeing if your system is compatible is all right if no demo is available. (This situation is highly rare, however. Most games have demos.) There have been too many cases of minimum requirements being utter lies for me to rely on anything but recommended requirements, so in this (RARE) case I think it’s all right. But seriously: don’t play longer than, say, 5-10 minutes, or you’re really risking getting sucked in and engaging in behavior that leads to piracy as a habit.

    3) Using a pirate version of legit software that refuses to work. You paid for it, you didn’t expect to have to resort to piracy, you deserve a working copy. That said, I’m very careful to make sure software will work before I buy it. There’s only one game I’ve ever had to resort to this kind of tactics for.

    Note that 1 & 3 involve you buying the software first, and 2 assumes that there is no demo, which is rare. Other than these cases, and a few other rare hypotheticals, piracy == fail.

    EDIT: HOLY COW this is a long post. I should copy & paste and put this in my own weblog.

  45. Shamus says:

    Mythin: It IS a black and white issue for me.

    The deal the other guy is proposing is this: Give me fifty bucks and I’ll give you a game that might work. Take it or leave it, but pirating the game and buying it later is not something I’ll do, simply because the producer doesn’t want me to and they have the right to set their own terms.

  46. Daemian Lucifer says:


    I have a question for you:Is it ok to swindle someone trying to swindle you?If someone decides to patent something that most people need(lets say a hammer),and manages to do it(using money and power),should everyone pay that guy for using such a simple tool existing for millenia?If yes,then all the slave owners of the past were actually good respectful citizens and everyone trying to free slaves was actually an evil rotten vilain deserving faith worse than death,right?

    Of course,saying that all the developers are evil would be the same generalization that all people owning illegal software were evil pirates,which I oppose.I acknowledge that there are people both amongst developers and amongst customers that just want money/pleasure for no work,but separating them and calling one group immoral without considering the effect of the other group is not objective.Yes,you are raving against the publishers involved in shady practices every now and then,but you still are defending their right to do what they are doing.Why?

  47. Shamus says:

    I should add that in the case of fraud (the claim the game will work and it doesn’t, or they try to alter the deal after the fact via the EULA) I don’t feel any obligation to honor the agreement. If the EULA said, “Now mail us another $10 that we didn’t tell you about before the purchase” I would NOT send them $10, and I would do so with a clear conscience.

    But I always come at a transaction straight and honest.

    Just to be clear: I don’t blame people who do pirate when they’re not sure if a game will work or not. I don’t do it myself, but these are very personal decisions and publishers should be aware how much of their own shenanigans contributes to the problem.

  48. Shamus says:

    Daemian Lucifer: You’re trying to drag me back into the realm of IP law, and I’m not falling for it.

    Claiming to own copyright on a hammer – or actually OBTAINING one through trickery – is completely different from producing content that I want. In the case of the hammer, you have PRODUCED nothing.

    EDIT: When I said “I’m not falling for it” I made it sound like you were trying to “trick” me. I just meant that down that road lies madness and would just muddy things with a bunch of legal cruft. I didn’t mean you were trying to mislead me. :) More pithy: It’s a trap!

  49. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh, one more thing:

    I do consider most current and past forms of “Digital Rights Management” to be a separate issue to piracy.

    It’s similar to the situation I had with Japanese ROMs translated into English, but not quite the same. The publisher had a product, but I couldn’t use it in the form provided by the publisher. The main difference is that Square was working on eventually providing the English-speaking fans with legit (and even remade/updated) versions of everything, while those who stoop to DRM are deliberately participating in sabotaging the freedom of their customers.

    All DRM is pure arrogance on the part of publishers, plain and simple. But piracy is not the proper response. The proper response is to suck it up and do without. If you buy a product without realizing the DRM is going to bite you and you need the pirate version to use the software at all, then ethically it’s acceptable but you’re still engaging in an activity that can lead to a harmful habit. So instead it’s best to make sure there’s no DRM, but if there is, don’t use it as an excuse to pirate the game first.

    To be clear: shenanigans do not justify shenanigans.

  50. Shamus says:

    Picture the other person standing right in front of you when you propose the hypothetical and these things sort themselves out.

    “Hey. I copyrighted the hammer. Give me a dollar.”

    “Piss off.”

    “Hey, I made this videogame. I want fifty bucks for it. And you’re not allowed to give copies to your friends.”

    “I’ll think about it.”

  51. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And in the case of owning a share of a company,you have produced nothing as well.You can have absolutelly no idea about what the company was doing,but you can still get the money from their product.You dont even have to buy shares with your own money,you could loan money from the bank,buy shares,and later repay the bank and keep the profits that the company has made you.

    Laws are a human made product.And,as such,are imperfect and should be regulary improwed.Accepting them the way they are is either lazy or dumb.

    Of course,breaking them without any consideration is just as bad solution as blindly obeying them.

  52. Daemian Lucifer says:


    “The proper response is to suck it up and do without”

    Actually,it is not.You not buying a product wont show the company that they did wrong.You not buying a product and making sure no one else does(buy spreading the word how bad it is and offering alternatives)will.

  53. Daemian Lucifer says:

    My appologies Shamus for calling you lazy or dumb.After a bit of thinking,Ive realized a third option here:Upbringing.You are obeying the law without questioning it because you were raised in a country where the constitution is almost unchanged for 400 years.Me,I am in a country where we are having a major law change almost every decade,most of which are shoddy,and aimed towards earning money for the rulling class and nothing more.It does make me sceptical towards their usefulness.

  54. method3 says:

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned yet (couldn’t find it via search so here goes), but at your earliest convenience please consider stealing and watching “Steal This Film”.

    More info here:

    In general I believe this to be some of the most clearly stated arguments surrounding the controversy as a whole, and does a rather good job of elevating the discussion. It’s not just about “right”, “wrong”, and/or “morality”. It’s about what’s real now, and why it’s getting to be impossible to define something as “Intellectual Property”, box it up, and sell it. I also like the fact that Part 2 puts some historical perspective on the matter.

    I can’t imagine that I could add something more than hasn’t already been said, I’ll just say this: I buy the games I think are worth playing that span all genres, I crack all of the games I buy for many reasons, chief among them system stability and reliability.

  55. Blackbird71 says:

    @Derek K

    You’ve made quite a few points I agree with, but your stance on returns is completely flawed.

    For your book analogy to hold in this case, the books would have to be sealed shut prior to purchase, making it impossible to view any of the inside of the book without buying it. Now, let’s assume that you are a person who speaks only English, and you find such a sealed book in the store, whose cover is printed entirely in English. You buy the book, take it home, and remove the seal. You then open its pages to discover that the entire text has been printed in German. You’re honestly saying that under such circumstances, it would not be within your rights to return the book for a full refund, just because the author/publisher declares it so? This is in violation of full disclosure and consumer protection laws that exist in the U.S. and many other countries. The book gave no indication that it might not be readable on the inside even if you could read the outside, yet you seem to believe that regardless of the unethical or illegal behavior of the book’s creators, the buyer’s only choices are to eat the cost of the book and write it off as a loss, or to pay for classes to learn to speak German in order to make use of the book he purchased. This is a ludicrous bit of reasoning.

    This is the state of software, as you don’t really know what’s in it until you’ve opened it up and installed it. System specs can give some idea, but you’re not guaranteed a working product just becasue you meet the required or even the recommended specs. If you buy software that does not function properly, you can legally return it. The problem is that the policies of certain retail outlets violates the established law, but because it is more costly to fight it than to accept their policy, little is done about it.

    Now, does this justify piracy? Of course not, two wrongs don’t make a right. However, while I don’t condone such action, I can be somewhat sympathetic to those with serious concerns about investing in software without any assurance that it will work properly or any ability to reclaim their investment if it should fail. Would companies be better off if they made demos? Yes. Are customers entitled to demos? No. Are they entitled to return a non-functional product? Most definitely. In additon, I think you would find that if software companies and retail outlets had more friendly return policies, they would have fewer pirates and more paying customers.

    They would also produce better software out of a need to reduce customer returns, but that’s probably a big reason why they don’t have such policies. If your customers can’t return your procuct, you can sell them whatever crap you want, and they can’t do much about it.

  56. Hawk says:

    This is an interesting discussion, doubly so because we had a similar very detailed discussion about virtually the same topic in the D&D community about 8 weeks ago, when the 4E rulebooks were pirated and released on PDF before the actual hard copies went on sale. All kinds of rationalizations for using the PDFs came out, and like the arguments here, not a single one of them in my opinion was a rational justification for piracy.

    I’ll make one exception: making a backup copy (pdf of a book, cracked or otherwise backup of a video game) provided it is (1) only for your own use, (2) not distributed, (3) done yourself from your own copy … is not piracy. It’s fair use. Otherwise:

    1. I don’t want to pay for it. You’re a thief (legalese of copyright infringement vs theft aside). You should be in jail.

    2. I want to try it, but if I like it I’ll buy it. Right :rolleyes: . Yes, some folks do do this … but, ever hear of a demo? If there isn’t a demo, how about reading reviews online? Trying it at a friend’s? Heck, one of my local cable channels shows two-hour blocks of various video games being played for hours at a time. You still have a copy you didn’t pay for otherwise.

    3. I want to make sure it works first. Again — check demos, reviews, etc. Simply don’t buy items without a return policy that supports you, or without demos. Best way to encourage companies to release demos is only to buy games that are demo’d first! Pirating only discourages the release of a demo — why invest the time & effort if the game just gets pirated? In my opinion (IANAL) you probably have legal recourse if a game you purchased for which your system meets minimum standards doesn’t work.

    4. (Pdfs) I want a spare copy, so I downloaded one. Wrong. You didn’t back up your copy — you took someone else’s.

    I look at it this way: a company needs to spend $XXX to make a product, which they must make back by selling YYY copies at $ZZ each. Some of that is profit, which they are entitled to — they need to build a nest egg for the next product, encourage their folks to do good work, etc, and reward investors for putting their money there (because if investors can’t get a good return, they’ll just invest somewhere else and no gaming products get made). Every copy in use that does not stem from an original sale is one of those YYY copies that has been stolen, that would otherwise be contributing to the development bottom line — because if it were possible to not pirate the product, that item would either be (1) a legitimate sale, or (2) a no sale. If (1) the company has been rewarded for making a product the consumer will by; if (2) the company made a crappy product and should lose the business. Pirating makes it harder to separate good products from bad … making it more likely that you’ll get less of either.

    The fact that it’s easier to reproduce and distribute digital items is irrelevant to this argument, as it’s mostly about development cost and the value of the time and effort put in to creating the product.

    None of that will stop piracy, nor will draconian DRM policies (they exist in pdf publishing, too) that punish legitimate users but not pirates. What will work is good enforcement of good laws, and better, the disapproval and negative peer pressure against piracy. If no one downloaded a pirated copy, pirates would still crack things … but would it matter?

  57. Xellos says:

    Interesting. I saw Shamus on the Penny Arcade game forums decrying DRM, and hadn’t made the connection. ^^;

    I don’t think the situation is quite as black and white as the analogies are.

    I don’t pirate. I also expect the seller to be acting in a reasonable and lawful manner when they attempt to sell me their goods. Increasingly, I’ve seen licenses that are neither reasonable nor lawful. I actually don’t entirely believe that creators “have the right to set whatever terms [they] like for selling goods [they’ve] produced.” In some cases, that works. In others, those “stupid restrictions” are unethical as well as unlawful… There are illegal terms in contracts and illegal actions in sales, and I’ve found that most of those terms are not allowed for good reasons.

    Essentially, the creator does not get to set all of the terms associated with the sale of the created work, for the right to be able to sell the created work in the first place as well as other rights associated with the work. This is true for any type of good.

    I don’t think that means that a consumer can do whatever he or she wants… In practice, I’m not that different from Shamus. I just try not to purchase items with those restrictions. I didn’t buy BioShock or Mass Effect, either.

    Also, as far as the legality of copying a CD for a friend, I would not at all be so certain that such an action is unethical or immoral. Both historically and in case law, it’s not so clear. Check out Professor Jessica Litman’s paper on Lawful Personal Use.

    Derek, I’m kind of confused about your mention of a lending library for people who can’t afford them. Care to clarify that here or elsewhere? ^_-

  58. DaveMc says:

    Quoth Shamus: Picture the other person standing right in front of you when you propose the hypothetical and these things sort themselves out.

    “Hey, I made this videogame. I want fifty bucks for it. And you're not allowed to give copies to your friends.”

    “I'll think about it.”

    Heh, nice. It might even help to take it a bit further:

    “…. and you’re not allowed to give copies to your friends.”

    “I find that unacceptable, so instead I’m just going to mug you and take the game. This is totally justified by your unreasonable stance on copying and your outmoded business model. Also, it might not even work on my system, and you didn’t offer me a demo, the nerve! If I like it enough I’ll give you fifty bucks later.”

    “What the frack? Ow! Hey, come back here . . . ”

    (Yeah, OK, game piracy isn’t the same as a mugging, but it’s also not the same as crusading for modified IP rights, so I’ll put down my copy of Free Culture when you put down yours, all right? Also: really, people, do we seriously believe that a majority of people torrenting games right now are doing it over EULA disagreements? It strains credulity. In any case, those people aren’t ones I would have any problem with: they’ve already bought the game. That’s the step people keep skipping over, the *buying* step. You can’t be an irate customer if you haven’t bought anything.)

  59. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Just for amusement,heres one reason that can work:
    The books arent available in your country(no shipping,no credit cards,nothing).Of course,you could go to some neighbouring country and buy it there,but a company that expects their customers to cross bourders just in order to buy their product doesnt deserve your money.

  60. Hawk says:

    @Lucifer: Sorry, I don’t buy it. In my opinion, just because a product is commercially available in another country doesn’t give you a right to take it when the creator/distributor has chosen (even through omission) not to distribute it to your country. It may specifically be because your country (hypothetically) does not protect that creator’s rights to the work. You’re simply out of luck … just as if you’re a non-German speaker who wants to appreciate a book only written in German. You either learn German (travel to the other country, etc), or wait for it to be translated. You’re still depriving the creator of the reasonable value of the work.

    This happens all the time with physical products (try and buy a right-hand drive car in the US, for example … Evo VII anyone? Skyline?). Why should the fact that the product is digital and thus easier to transport across national boundaries make it any different?

    @Xellos: Thanks for the reference to Professor Litman’s article … interesting reading.

  61. Mark says:

    I pirated games when I was younger. I was a kid, I didn’t know better. Just a few, which a few years later I decided to buy. After the price had dropped. These days I’ll pirate a game only if there’s nobody to buy it from – as if somebody dropped it on the sidewalk and nobody claimed it, despite a good-faith effort to find the owner.

    It’s largely a non-issue to me nowadays as I primarily play console games, and console DRM works. That’s the big benefit of playing games on an appliance: you don’t have to waste time proving you didn’t steal the game, developers don’t have to waste time trying to invent a way to prove that people didn’t steal the game, and pirates are left with a task so technically difficult, even requiring special hardware, that they’re few enough to safely ignore.

    The PC is a difficult platform to make money on, but it can be done. However, I think the cost of making money on PC is too high to support a market as small as gamers, especially given costs of development.

    The simple mathematical economics of information-based products in an environment where copying is trivial present a bleak conclusion: the value of any particular piece of information will drop to zero. A solution will be found, I’m sure, but there isn’t really a historical precedent to that kind of problem. The price of copying has been getting cheaper, but it’s never hit zero until now.

    (Actually, that’s not strictly true. There are many cases of things becoming worthless. We can ignore, for the moment, those cases where this was a result of total economic collapse (i.e. the devaluation of currency). For the rest of them, it was because demand decreased to zero, due to changing fashions, obsolescence, or even market saturation. But those all approach it from the demand side of the equation – there’s never been a case of infinite supply.)

    Anyway, they’ve approached it from a legal manner with copyright law, but when law and economics are too much at odds it begins to feel a bit oppressive, which is bad. Now they’re trying to combat it from a moral perspective, by trying to create a cultural perspective that regards it as wrong to use information not paid for. But so many people have listened to the radio, or read somebody’s newspaper, or checked out a book from the library, that it’s going to be difficult to get that to stick. In fact, the pirates with obvious or thinly-veiled entitlement complexes are sort of a manifestation of the resistance to this notion.

    The upshot of it is that, before long, it will be impossible to sell information (except in the rare case where everybody who possesses it has a vested interest in not disseminating it – that is, if the information is a secret). It would be ridiculous and foolhardy to try. The thing is, while the value of any particular information might be zero, the value of the existence of information is not. Unfortunately, the cost of creating information is also not zero. So the problem becomes: how do you use the value of information-in-general to finance the creation of information-in-particular, without resorting to (controlled or total) socialism? (Assuming that’s even a bad thing; Canada’s CD-copying statute suggest they didn’t think it was in that case. But it should be applied cautiously.)

    The obvious answer is: make the information less useful until it is combined with something that cannot be duplicated endlessly, like a hardware lock (as in a game console), approval from a particular server (as in a multiplayer game), or something else. The most widespread solution has been to create a cost for the acquisition or use of information. The legal fiction of a “license” has been successful elsewhere, but it’s notoriously difficult to enforce. Protecting the information using a unique key has worked, too, but has a few unique problems: it’s easy to fake a key, and some people feel insulted when they have to duplicate it (but, of course, that’s an issue that the consumer must deal with).

    Until you get to the point where people discover how to make equivalent information that requires nothing from the original source, nothing of finite quantity and nonzero cost, but just more information: a crack, in other words. This is just a technical issue; the original producer assumes the additional cost of making cracked versions difficult to make or use, sort of how a retail store assumes the additional cost of salesmen and a cash register. (I think that current solutions to this are addressing the wrong problem; they’re trying to make it difficult to make a copy, when they should be making it difficult to use a copy, i.e. circumventing the operating system rather than just having the game re-transmit the key every time it connects, and until the server verifies the key, no information is sent.)

    And what about information whose utility is not connected to information that must be pulled from a particular server? Well, for one thing, you might try to come up with reasons why users should connect anyway – convenience, for example. That’s what Valve and Stardock have done, to great success. But this isn’t applicable to all situations, but it’s not difficult to imagine similar policies. In some cases you can just ask for the money, and rely on users’ gratitude, but people will only put up with so much begging. Formal distributed patronage systems are beginning to emerge, and we’ll see if those are successful. A certain moral impulse does exist now, or at least a habit towards paying for physical copies, and book writers in particular take tremendous advantage of it (“piracy” (which in that case is more like “sharing”) has been shown, in general and anecdotally, to increase book sales), because when people want to possess the text of a novel they buy a printed copy rather than seek out an electronic facsimile.

    Piracy doesn’t help new systems to emerge, except by providing a general pressure to all content makers; in other ways it’s unintentionally harmful, such as causing the idea that making demos are unnecessary because the cracked copy is the demo; but it’s all just a natural consequence of the inadequacy of current attempted solutions. It’s not going to go away but it may be reduced to a level where it is negligible – content makers won’t have to give much thought to piracy the way modern retailers don’t have to give much thought to arson.

    Damn, that was a long post. I’ll try to be terser next time.

  62. Daemian Lucifer says:


    So what you are saying is that breaking a copyright law is not ok but discrimination is?A person cannot choose where they are born,so what happened with the “equality for all”?Furthermore,you are saying that the wheel shouldve never left its country of origin,and every neighbouring country making wheels of its own was a pirating one.

    See,if you are unable to let every single person in the world to buy your product legaly,you are also not to be allowed to protect your idea by law in those countries you are unable to distribute it to.The person that is able to distribute your product to said country isnt breaking any laws then since he is providing a different service,similar to yours,but with a difference that it is obtainable in the country you are unable to service.

    Imagine if newton didnt want his work to ever be translated from english.Should the whole non english speaking world then be forbidden to know about gravity?

    And if you say that this is different from copying games because games are pure enjoyment,where do you draw the line then?Flight simulators,for example,can be used as an extremelly beneficial tool for pilots,but can also be pure enjoyment.

    Actually,where is the line anyway?What ideas and what work are you allowed to prohibit others from copying without your permission?Is a heart surgeon allowed to prohibit other surgeons from copying his new technic that can save numerous lives just because they cannot pay him enough?If not,then are the producers of an educational software teaching that technic allowed to prohibit people from using it if they cannot pay enough?If yes,whats the difference between the two?Both are saving numerous lives,and the only fundemantal law I think we all agree about is that you are not allowed to harm someone,and not allowing someone adequate treatment is,essentially,equal to harming that person.



    “It's largely a non-issue to me nowadays as I primarily play console games, and console DRM works. That's the big benefit of playing games on an appliance: you don't have to waste time proving you didn't steal the game, developers don't have to waste time trying to invent a way to prove that people didn't steal the game, and pirates are left with a task so technically difficult, even requiring special hardware, that they're few enough to safely ignore.”

    Really?In one other piracy discussion here,a few months back,someone mentioned that in china you are able to buy pirated console games as well as pirated consoles and add ons for consoles that make them safelly play these CDs in any mall.Id hardly call malls in china a small market.

  63. Robert says:

    I don't know if I'll enjoy a book when I buy it. Should I be able to photocopy the entire thing first, then read it, then decide? I don't know if I'll enjoy a meal when I order it – should I get to eat it first, then decide if I'll pay for it?

    I can browse the book in a bookshop before I buy it. If it falls apart, or is missing pages, I can return it for a refund. I don’t have to worry that I’ll get new glasses and suddenly I can’t read the book. And once I’ve bought the book, I can photocopy it if I want to, so I can read it in the bathtub without worrying about damaging my only copy.

    And if I go to a restaurant and the food is unacceptable, I don’t have to pay.I can’t eat the meal and complain, but if I have a bite or two and don’t like it, I don’t have to pay. The “shrink wrap” license doesn’t apply, even to shrink wrapped foods!

  64. Robert says:

    Blake@37: If Bill C-61 passes, not only will that be illegal, but you won’t even be able to rip the CD you just bought to your iPod without leaving yourself open to prosecution. (They probably won’t prosecute you for that, but by the text of the law they could).

    I also expect, if C-61 passes, that the blank media levy with remain. It will either be a hidden tax, or if the government lifts it a bit of extra profit for retailers.

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